There’s scant consolation in Tottenham blowing it last night; spectacularly so and without a hint of dodgy lasagna in the air. ‘Spursy’ is the phrase which doesn’t apply to Mauricio Pochettino some in the media claimed. Au contraire, mon ami; it’s exactly the word to use.
We can seek small solace from their failure or more accurately, a huge sigh of relief. Not that Chelsea becoming champions is any better particularly, it’s just not Tottenham who will lift the trophy this year.
After last season and now this, there is a sense that day might come if others don’t invest in their squads and re-invent themselves. Arsenal, I don’t think, will be among them.
Oliver Kay in this morning’s Times underlines why it’s not likely to happen:
Wenger’s recruitment policy has been erratic while he often seems reluctant to change formation. This is the first time since his debut season in 1996-97, for example, that he has used a back three.
The fact that 12 senior players, including Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil will be out of contract in the next 13 months suggests there is little planning at Arsenal, even though Wenger seems likely to be around for at least one more season.
The article, paywalled alas, is here.
It essentially compares Wenger with Ferguson which is apples and pears to some extent. The circumstances in both clubs in final years of the Scot’s reign were so different that it is little surprise Arsenal didn’t win trophies. We were far from perfect and Wenger made mistakes in his methods, and player recruitment.
Comparisons to Wenger either side of the Emirates construction is valid. Until 2005, his recruitment and planning was outstanding for the most part. Every manager makes mistakes, Ferguson was no exception and his tended to be very expensive ones.
Gary Pallister observed:
Sir Alex just managed to seamlessly create a team by thinking four or five years ahead,” Pallister said. “There was a continuity to the teams that he built there and maybe Arsène hasn’t been able to do that in the last few years and that is why he’s at the crossroads in his managerial career, although he has been badly treated by some of the Arsenal supporters.”
When the Emirates was built and the end of the cash-restraint was in sight, was there a plan about squad composition and how the team would play? I’d argue not; similar types of players and let’s be honest, this season’s reversion to a back three isn’t Wenger voluntarily adapting to tactical innovation. Desperation took hold and it was very much a last resort.
It worked to the extent we’re at Wembley, bravo. The summer is going to decide whether the move to 3-4-3 is permanent. That will require significant investment in the summer, with signings planned and executed with a previously well-hidden efficiency. Executed as in transferred, not transferred to a Texan execution chamber.
Nothing at the moment suggests that is underway, unless you count Arsène popping by Madam Mbappe’s for a cup of tea. The club is mired in contract talks with a dozen of the squad and seemingly no progress on any of them.
End of March, sometime in April; they’ve come and gone. We’re in May and the end of the season is three weeks away. Arsenal, rudderless, are unlikely to find the managerless but we are most definitely leaderless, on and off the pitch.
The situation is baffling on the outside with little credible information coming out. Supposition comes to the fore and the explanations over the delay in revealing the intentions will be interesting. And probably implausible.
It casts a pall over the club and a dark shadow on the abilities of the board. Not that it’s anything new for their directorial skills to be questioned. In the grand scheme of things, unless Kroenke sells his shareholding or they get pangs of conscience, it isn’t going to change any time soon.
We’re told that negativity from the fans is disruptive and we should be positive, encouraging. It’s staggering that the same sages never hint or otherwise that Wenger’s situation is more harmful.
The situation is similar to Ferguson’s initial retirement announcement, the one later rescinded. That season ended badly with United fading. Arsenal’s league campaign is going south as well; a top six finish is by no means certain.
Would the players be more motivated by the certainty of Wenger’s future or is there concern that knowing he is staying may undermine negotiations with others. We’ll see but hanging on to announce the renewal in tandem with a director of football is a mistake; it’s not going to alter the opinions on Wenger radically with the perception of the DofF being a ‘yes man’.